I approached this subject about two months ago and all that came out was anger. I’m going to share the part of my journey that stings a bit. The reason why is to give some perspective to those who have yet to complete their search or who may be considering it.
When an adoptee decides to look for their birth family the hopes are that it won’t take years and years, but also that what they find does not reject them. In my case my maternal side accepted me with open arms. If I had to choose, it makes sense that the birth mother would be more akin to me, because she carried me for nine months and witnessed my birth and relinquishment.
As the story goes some birth fathers knew, but decided for one reason or another not to interfere or vacate the scene claiming it was not theirs to begin with. As it relates to my story it is possible my birth father did not even know my birth mother was pregnant. She has tried, on numerous occasions to recall the details, but spent a long time in counseling and even shock therapy to get past the grief of my relinquishment. Perhaps not everyone in her family even knows about this, but it had an effect on her memory surrounding the events in regards to my birth father.
For him, the date between my conception and his separation with his first wife is so close it is feasible that he was having an affair and my birth mother was unaware of this reality at the time. I only know this because I made contact with my half-sister from his first marriage and she was separated from her father at the age of two. Which puts their separation right around the time of my conception.
My sister recalls the story by describing him as paranoid and controlling her mother’s every move, thinking that she was cheating on him. When in fact it appears it was his own paranoia the drove them apart. Having later paid a private investigator to go to my birth father’s home and question him, he denies everything surrounding being with anyone during that time. Even describing leaving the Air Force around that time.
The dates he shared with the private investigator actually put him on the same base as my birth mother right at the time of my conception. To me, there is no question. I asked my half-sister if she would take a DNA test and I ended up sending her one from 23andMe and one from Family Tree DNA. Both came back conclusively proving she was my half-sister. Understanding I am telling you these facts as a linear story line, when in reality I found her far before I found my birth mother or birth father. It was her DNA results that allowed me to separate all my genetic cousins into two distinct groups.
In any case what is important to describe is the way things played out. I eventually found my birth father and sent him several hand written letters. Two months went by with no response. I even designed the letters so if there was a forwarding address the letter would be returned to me with the forwarding address. As my half-sister had found her father twenty-two years later, she gave me the State he last lived in and I was able to find him there. The private investigator was hired within the same State that my birth father lived in so I could minimize the cost. I was able to attain a copy of his most recent drivers license and the PI got the opportunity to make a house call.
Although he denied that I could be his off-spring he did give the PI a thorough background of the history of his involvement in the region I was conceived and details about his service record. For me, it became the final proof that he had in fact received my letters but simply did not respond.
So while I know ten generations of this individual family genealogically, I know very little about the man and his family. During my attempts to reach out I contacted the children of his second marriage and their spouses. One spouse was very pleasant in their communication, but after promising to relay my information I never heard from any of them thereafter. It still haunts me on a level. However, I have slowly learned to redirect my pain into something more constructive.
While I am a strong advocate for opening up birth records, I am not opposed to adoption. Especially since nine out of ten adoptions these days are open adoptions. Now I don’t claim to know every portion of the foster care system, or the corruption of the adoption systems that may very well exists nationally and internationally. However, I am getting more and more familiar with them as I work with adoptees and birth parents seeking out one another.
There is a finite amount of satisfaction that comes with completing one’s search. While my adopted parents acknowledged my need to know and happiness of my success, they really don’t want to know anymore about it. At the same time I am still a little stunned that I found my birth mother. We have shared a book between us writing about our lives apart. So much so that things have become normalized. Yet it is still completely extraordinary that we actually found one another. I am headed down south to see a great many more relatives soon; which I am very excited about.
Yet, half of me can only appreciate the paternal side from afar. My half-sister has been open to meet me face to face, but it would take an expense I cannot afford at this time to visit her on the other side of the country from where I live. Oddly we lived near one another for many years and never knew it, some thirty years ago. Although there is a bit of sadness in my heart that I very well may have been the catalyst that broke her family apart back in the late sixties. For all involved, this is water under the bridge. A lifetime has come and gone for many of us.
Reunion may start as a moment where the past is dredged up and rekindled for the adoptee to fill in all that was just a dream before. However, eventually that honeymoon fades back into the reality that the relationship you work on now is that of an adult amongst adults; each with their own lives fully engaged with wherever they were when you came back into their lives. I have been fortunate enough to have a genuine friendship blossom with my birth mother and her family. The odd coincidences of familiar natures are both shocking, refreshing and soul quenching. I love my adopted parents and siblings dearly, but these biological family members fill in where I never even knew I had cracks to fill.